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What is egoism?

0 votes
What is egoism? How and why is it relevant to anarchists? What are the differences and similarities between egoism and individualism? How has encountering egoist ideas affected your anarchism and your day-to-day life? Are there relevant writings on egoism by women? How about writings on egoism that are more introductory/digestable than diving directly into Stirner?

I'm interested in hearing both a laying out of theory as you understand it, as well as the effect this theory has had on your life.
asked Jul 19 by anonymous

i don't self-define as an egoist, so i won't weigh in (yet).

but as for books, there are two text book sized ones, disruptive elements, and enemies of society, if you don't want to go with the new, more accessible translation of stirner's the unique. there's also a small book called just egoism, that's probably more what you're looking for. there are others, i'm sure, these are just the ones i remember off the top of my head.

I am not an egoist, so I am leaving this a comment. I don't really want to lay out my own definition of egoism, but, like dot, I have some ideas of where you might look for further ideas.

If you can track it down, the periodical The Sovereign Self might be of interest. It was an Egoist paper that was produced around 2011 - 2013 (I think?). Some writing from it is in the book Egoism that dot mentioned, but outside of that I am unsure if it is available anywhere (a quick perusal of the Anarchist Library didn't find it as a title or by a general search, though I didn't delve into looking for authors or specific articles.

Also excerpted in the book Egoism and worth tracking down is the periodical My Own which is put out by Apio Ludd. Some issues of it are available (or have been) via Little Black Cart. Apio is both biting and sharp and deeply playful in his writing, even when it seems to wander a bit.

Although it is not an explicitly egoist read, it might also be worth checking out Wolfi Landstreicher's work in Willful Disobedience. Wolfi did the recent translation of Stirner's The Unique and Its' Property (aka The Ego and Its' Own) and also did the first full (only full?) english translation of Stirner's Critics. Willful Disobedience was a zine published for about a decade from the 90's to the aughts. If I was asked to classify it by taxonomy of anarchist tendencies, I would say it came from more of an insurrectionary & non-primitivist anti-civ perspective than an egoist one, but I think it is an interesting look at the slow development (or maybe not development, clarification?) of his egoist perspective. The anthologized book Wilful Disobedience is also available at Little Black Cart, and at least parts of the zine are on http://theanarchistlibrary.org.

Hope this is helpful.

1 Answer

+2 votes

In my mind (let anyone who reads this remember that I'm only speaking for egoism as is know in politics and writing) there are two main types of egoism: The most popular variety is mostly associated with the idea that nature is a war of all-against-all, and selfishness is an idealized personal trait. I would say that Ayn Rand is the poster child for this type of egoism. Ayn Rand takes this a step further and idealizes competition (since nature is a brutal competition of all against all), and claims that free market capitalism is the best form of relation that man can hope for.

The other variety of egoism stems from Max Stirner, and fueled the writing of the books that dot mentioned. Without including the philosphical jargon that he used as a student of philosophy, Max Stirner's egoism rejects the subordination of the individual to any group or concept. During his time period (the mid 1800's), he was directly opposing the fact that philosophers were fixated on concepts that were external and alien to all breathing, eating, shitting individuals such as God, "the people", and morality. Stirner's egoism is ruthless in the sense that it sees nothing as being above any individual. This is drastically different from the egoism of Ayn Rand and co., which sees capitalism as the height of progress and the superior form of social relation to any other political system like communism or socialism.

If you read "The Unique and It's Property", it becomes pretty clear that Stirner has a suspicion with a self-identification with anything, I've read about 90 pages of it and there are several sections where he likens the process of identifying with something other than yourself as being religious (the term "religion" having it's linguistic roots in latin to being bound).

answered Jul 21 by Nihilist (1,050 points)
edited Jul 21 by Nihilist
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